admin ,Vniindia.com | Thursday March 01, 2018, 10:02:00 | Visits: 581
New Delhi, 01 March (Saroj Nagi/VNI) Will Tuesday’s election in Nagaland turn out to be historic?
After more than 75% voters cast their vote on February 27, the rest of the country is now waiting for to see whether the northeastern state will break the mould this time and elect a woman representative to the 60 member assembly. It is astounding that ever since the establishment of the state in 1963, not a single female has been elected across 12 state elections. And because the unicameral state does not provide for a nominated member, the possibility of inducting a woman as a minister has also been effectively ruled out.
Will the 13 th assembly polls finally prove lucky for one of the five women candidates who joined the fray in the state where half of the more than 11lakh voters are females? All eyes will be on the elections results on March 3 to see if the state will make history this time.
The five female candidates---up from two last time---include first time contestants ---Wedie-u Kronu and Mangyangpula (National People’s Party), Awan Konyak (Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party) and Rekha Rose Dukru (Independent). Rakhila, the Bharatiya Janata Party candidate had lost the last election narrowly.
As elsewhere, at least two of the five come from a political family. Rakhila is the widow of former minister and four time legislator Lakiumong. Konyak is the daughter of four time ex legislator who died recently. On their part, Mangyangpula is a practitioner of alternative medicine, Dukru is an entrepreneur turned politician and Kronu is a social worker.
Barring one solitary instance when Rano Shaiza, a member of the United Democratic Party, was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1977, women have found themselves kept out of the decision making process.
The resistance to bringing women in the decision making process is so strong that the state was on a boil in early 2017 when elections to urban local bodies were scheduled, for the first time with 33 percent quota for women as mandated by the Nagaland Municipal Act of 2001 which was amended in 2006 to align it with 243 (D) of the Constitution which earmarks one third seats for women. The move came after the Supreme Court favoured the petitioners who demanded implementation of reservations.
There was violence with tribal groups alleging that the quota system undermined their customary laws protected under Article 371 (A) of the Constitution. Under this Article, no central law that interferes with Naga religious, social or customary laws can be applied to the state unless the state assembly passes a resolution to this effect.
Even neighbouring Mizoram, which continues to lag behind in women representation, has a better track record than Nagaland.It has held its local body elections. It has elected four women legislators since it became a Union Territory in 1972 and formalized as a full-fledged state in 1987, with two of them inducted into the ministry. The first induction happened in 1987 and the second came three decades later in 2017 when C. Lalawmpuii, state Youth Congress president and daughter of a senior Congress leader who had won the 2014 bypolls, was made a minister.
The situation is slightly better in Meghalaya which voted along with Nagaland on February 27. There were 32 women candidates--- out of a total of 370--- testing their electoral luck in the matrilineal state. The outgoing cabinet included three women as ministers of which one became the state’s first female deputy chief minister and the other became the state’s first female home minister.
In 1972 when Meghalaya was created, three women contested and only one won. In 1978, no woman was elected. In 1983, there was no female contestant. In 1988, two were elected. Five years later only one could get through the hustings. In 1998 and 2003, three women succeeded in entering the assembly. The number slumped to one in 2008. The figure went up to four in 2013 and when the fifth entered the house in the bypolls, Meghalaya had its largest representation of women in its history so far.
Indeed, most northeastern states present a sorry picture visa vis the election of women. Tripura, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh, for instance, have never elected a female to the Lok Sabha. Nagaland, Mizoram, Sikkim and Manipur have not sent any female representative to the Rajya Sabha. Manipur’s M C Mary Kom is a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha.
What is surprising is that in comparison to most parts of the country, the gender ratio in some of these states is much better . Both in Nagaland and in Mizoram, which polled on February 27, females are nearly 50% of the population. They have a high literacy rate too. Compared to the national average of 65%, about 76% women in Nagaland and 89% women in Mizoram are literate. They are also well represented in jobs. But they have a long haul before them when it comes to trying to participate in the political arena or in the decision making process. VNI ( Writer is columnist and Ex Associate Editor of Hindustan Times)